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Dutch Firm Eyes Cannabis Pill

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Drug company Echo Pharmaceuticals expects to sell the world's first cannabis pill within five years, targeting a 4 billion euros global market, its chief executive said.

The privately-held Dutch company faces competition from Canada's Cannasat which is also developing a pill. In 2005, Canada became the first country in the world to approve a cannabis-based spray produced by Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals Plc as a treatment for multiple sclerosis patients.

US regulators granted approval for a clinical trial for GW's under-the-tongue spray called Sativex, but the company said in July that European regulators had requested a further clinical study before approval.

Echo said it will start clinical studies and trials of its pill, to be marketed as Namisol, in the first half of 2008.

"The global cannabis-based drugs market could be worth four billion euros," Echo Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Officer Geert Woerlee told Reuters in an interview.

"As an early adopter we could get 20-30% market share."

He said studies showed that cannabis-based drugs may be effective for diseases like Parkinson's, MS and migraine and could also help patients with Alzheimer's.

The Netherlands has tolerated the sale of cannabis in coffee shops for decades and in 2003 became the world's first country to make it available as a prescription drug in pharmacies to treat chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis patients.

Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use. It was used as a Chinese herbal remedy around 5,000 years ago, while Britain's Queen Victoria is said to have taken cannabis tincture for menstrual pains.

"The big advantage of administering cannabis via a pill is that the drug is adopted easier by the body compared to alternatives," Woerlee said.

The cannabis for Echo's pill will come from a Dutch grower with the permission of the Dutch government, which said in November it wanted to promote the development of cannabis-based medicine and will extend its availability in pharmacies by five years to allow more scientific research.

Echo Pharmaceuticals, based in Weesp close to Amsterdam, has secured 3 million euros from a private investor to get the drug to Phase II studies. It then hopes to team up with a company or investor to bring the pill to the market.

"All options are open then," Woerlee said, declining to say whether he preferred a financial or pharmaceutical partner or an initial public offering.

He said bringing a drug to the market normally takes about five years but he was hoping to take the drug on faster track.

"In fact we have an easy case as the effects of the drug have been known for thousands of years," he said.

Source: One News, New Zealand News
Copyright: 2008, Reuters
Contact: Reuters
Website: Dutch firm on track with cannabis pill | HEALTH | NEWS | tvnz.co.nz


New Member
interesting news, would like see where this goes in the future
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